MANTECA -- East Union High School students are trying to cope after a classmate was seriously injured in a car crash.
The Manteca Unified School District identified the injured student as junior Ronald Rice.
Lt. Col. John Tao told FOX40 Rice has been an active participant in the East Union JROTC program for the last two years.
"Ronald Rice is an outstanding young man that works hard," Tao said.
A spokesman for CHP Stockton said the solo vehicle crash happened Tuesday. Rice was traveling around 40 to 50 mph on Lathrop Road toward Cottage Avenue when for an unknown reason he veered off the roadway and slammed into a tree.
Witnesses told FOX40 the impact of the crash sounded like a gunshot.
"It was just so tragic what happened," said classmate Brandon Gibson.
"We really need him back and it would mean so much to his family and everyone else if we had him back," said friend Angelina Cisneros. "His life is just really important."
A family friend told FOX40 16-year-old Rice was considering going into the Air Force after high school but now remains hospitalized in a coma.
His friends and classmates said their JROTC battalion is like a family and that it just isn’t the same without him.
"We’re always used to seeing him and now not seeing him is just a part of our family that’s missing," Gibson said. "My hope for Ronald is that he gets better."
As the teen remains in the hospital, his classmates are coming together to rally around the Rice family. They said Ron, as they call him, has stepped up for them in the past so they’re stepping up for him and his family now.
JROTC staff and students are organizing a car wash fundraiser at the school later this month to help pay for Rice's medical expenses.
"We want him back and we want him to be going on and living his life like he has been before, you know, a young man with a great future," Tao said.
"I want this family to know that we’re here for him," Gibson said. "We’re doing as much as we can and if there’s anything else they need from us, we’re right there for them."
The car wash will be held at the school on May 30. All the proceeds will go to the Rice family to help with Ronald's recovery. If you can't make it out, you can also donate to the family's GoFundMe page.